Aphelion Issue 279, Volume 26
December 2022/January 2023
 
Editorial    
Long Fiction and Serials
Short Stories
Flash Fiction
Poetry
Features
Series
Archives
Submission Guidelines
Contact Us
Forum
Flash Writing Challenge
Forum
Dan's Promo Page
   

The Nicky Nicks Show

by George Schaade




            “Get ready! Get set! Go… Go… GO! It’s the Nicky Nicks Show! Coming to you live from the entertainment studios in Las Vegas, Nevada. It’s Nicky Nicks featuring the music of Ace St. Savage and the Huh Band. Nicky’s special guests tonight are Hrosch champion, Pynrhovazephacon-ji, author and Red Sky investigator, Roger Albert, singing sensation, Cheeky Sorbert, and tonight a special segment of ‘Another Dimension’. As for now, remember that in the future we may have nanobots that tickle our pleasure centers but until then we’ve got… NICKYYYYY!”

            The background music swells, the audience erupts with applause, the curtain momentarily pulls back, and Nicky Nicks confidently strolls onto the stage. He quickly makes his way to a desk with a cushy couch just to the left. Standing in front of the desk, Nicky puts his hands together and bows deeply to the audience.

            Nicky is a slender man in his mid-forties. His hair is thinning and shows a bit of gray, but his smile is young and contagious. There’s something casual about Nicky that always puts people at ease, but you can also see a vast intellect behind those soft, blue eyes. Everyone loves Nicky Nicks.

            “Thank you. Thank you very much. You’re very kind.” Nicky turns to his left and says, “Ladies and gentlemen, the best band in the solar system, Ace St. Savage and the Huh.”

            Ace bows to Nicky and then to the audience. Ace is tall with a long black beard weaved into several braids. His appearance is odd, and many say he looks like a modern-day pirate. Behind Ace is a rough-looking group of musicians that delicately adjust their instruments like scientists focusing their microscopes.

            “Well, I hope everyone had a great weekend,” says Nicky, “You know, we’re getting close to the end of the year and that means the end of yet another season of the show. Someone backstage said this marks the close of twelve years of broadcasting live shows and that got me thinking. Our shows are sent directly to the Mars colonies and depending on the orbital positions it could take anywhere from four to twenty-four minutes for the signal to get there, so is that still considered a live broadcast for the Mars colonists? What do you think, Ace?”

            The band leader strokes a braid on his chin. “I’m not sure, Nicky. Let’s ask Bobby the drummer.”

            Bobby raises his head with a confused look on his face. He looks to the left, he looks to the right, and finally he looks at Ace and says, “Huh?”

            Ace starts laughing and turns to Nicky. “Well, there you go. That’s the best answer you’re going to get from this side of the stage.”

            “That’s the same answer every night,” chuckles Nicky. “Anyway, speaking of Mars, did any of you hear about that fantastic discovery they made there? Scientists on Mars have discovered fossilized bone fragments of a creature that roamed Mars three billion years ago. Amazing! They have a piece of jawbone and a piece of leg bone, and from those tiny fragments they can determine that the animal was about the size of a small dog. They call it the Zeinke dog because of the crater where it was found. It’s incredible, not just that there was once life on Mars but what the scientists can figure out from a few bits of fossilized bone. They say it was a quadruped resembling a small Chihuahua. I wonder if… “

 

            The screen suddenly goes dark and a male voice says, “We interrupt this program for a special news bulletin from our studios in New York City.” A handsome, young man with brown hair and green eyes appears and says, “Good evening. We’ve just received reports of a massive explosion that occurred less than an hour ago in the area just south of Dallas. The blast shook buildings and rattled windows on the south side of the Texas city. At this time we have no official reports of the cause or the extent of damage, but we do know that first responders from all over north Texas are headed to the area.”

The man picks up a piece of paper from his desk. “The explosion seems to be near the city of Waxahachie which is thirty miles south of Dallas. This is the location of the nation’s Superconducting Super Collider which is a particle accelerator complex run by the University of Texas at Austin in conjunction with the Department of Energy. At this time we can’t confirm or deny that the explosion has any connection with this facility. Our Dallas affiliate WFAA-TV is rushing a crew to the scene, and we should be able to give you more information shortly. Until then we’ll return you to your regular programming.”

 

As the screen returns to the Nicky Nicks Show the audience is loudly laughing and applauding. Nicky is sitting behind his desk and an alien is sitting next to him. The alien is about a meter tall with white, putty-like skin. But the oddest part of his appearance is that his head is shaped like a duck’s head. His mouth protrudes like a beak, but is soft and fleshy. His eyes are little black raisins that never close or blink. He is an Aconian named Pynrhovazephacon-ji.

            “Amazing!” exclaims Nicky. “So, you’re not only the greatest Hrosch player in the last thousand years but you also solve crimes. Tell me, which is more rewarding for you, discovering a killer or winning a championship?”

            The alien leans forward. “Aconians have a very low emotional response to most situations and events, so I don’t have varying levels of excitement for the choices you’ve given me.”

            “Is there anything you’re passionate about?”

            “I wouldn’t say I’m passionate, but I am interested in Earthlings. They intrigue me because everything about them is tied to emotions. I enjoy analyzing them.”

            “Well, Earthlings certainly enjoy following you, Mr. Pyn,” says Nicky, “You’re a huge celebrity here.” The audience applauds. “Now, I understand you’re leaving soon for the Ujion Tournament. We all hope that… “

 

            The screen flashes black then signals “Breaking News” before the man with brown hair reappears. “We now have more details about the enormous explosion that took place south of Dallas near the Waxahachie Superconducting Super Collider facility. Authorities from two state agencies have told us that this was not, I repeat was not, a nuclear explosion and there is no radioactivity detected in the area. It’s our understanding that police, fire, and medical personnel are headed to the Waxahachie city limits and the central control facilities for the particle accelerator, but there seems to be some delay.” The man puts a hand to his ear and listens. “We’re now going to switch to Karen Watson, our reporter for the Dallas affiliate WFAA, who is on the scene. Karen, are you there?”

            The picture changes to a woman with long, black hair. She is holding a microphone and standing next to a wooden barricade. Behind her the dark night sky is lit by searchlights from noisy helicopters and in the distance a thick, gray smoke drifts high into the air.

            “Thank you, David. I’m a few miles south of the town of Red Oak on Highway 35. We’re not being allowed any closer to the collider or the city. The WFAA helicopter is circling overhead but they tell us that there’s nothing to be seen even from that vantage point. They can make out no lights on the ground from the city of Waxahachie or the SSC buildings. I can tell you that a lot of first responders have gone into the area but I’ve yet to see any return, so there’s nothing to report from firsthand observation. So, right now we’re waiting for the smoke to clear and the sun to rise.”

            The woman moves to her left to reveal a tall, slender man with gray hair. “While standing here I was lucky enough to run into Dr. Robert Shankel who works at the super collider. What do you do there, Dr. Shankel?”

            The man nervously shifts from one foot to the other and says, “I’m a high-energy particle physicist. My project team is using proton-proton collisions to look for any new fundamental forces other than the ones we know of.”

            “And where were you when the explosion took place?”

            The man raises his eyebrows. “I was in Dallas. The building I was in shook and everyone ran outside. When I found out where it had happened I drove down here, but they won’t let me go any farther.”

            “So do you know what experiment was going on at this time of night?”

            “I’m not sure. There is a project looking for dark matter and another exploring the extra-dimensions of space, but at this time of night it’s probably the team investigating the asymmetry of matter and antimatter.”

            “Antimatter,” repeats the reporter. “Could that cause this kind of explosion?”

            “Probably not, the antimatter would be destroyed as soon as it was created.” The scientist pauses then says, “But I’m not familiar with the goal of their project.”

            “Thank you. I’m being told by the police that we have to move farther back, and I understand that our helicopter is also being recalled. We will have to relocate, but we may get some drones in the air shortly. This is Karen Watson with WFAA sending it back to you, David.”

            The man at the news desk reappears. “Thank you, Karen. We’re now being told that this enormous explosion did originate at the super collider complex south of Dallas, Texas. I understand that the governor has called out the National Guard to lockdown the area. The Department of Energy, who runs the SSC along with the University of Texas, is working with the governor’s office to determine what happened and how to proceed. As you’ve just seen our reporter on the scene is in the process of relocating and as soon as she is in position, or we have more information, we will bring that to you. Stay tuned for updates.”

           

            Nicky looks up from his desk, glances at the camera, then turns to his left and asks, “So, we’re back? We are? Okay.” Nicky speaks to the viewing audience. “Just like you, we’ve been following the horrible events in Texas and luckily I have Roger Albert with me tonight. He is, of course, best known for his books and investigations into the Red Sky phenomena. But I’m hoping he may also have some insight into what’s happened at the super collider.”

            Sitting on the couch beside Nicky’s desk is a middle-aged man with a bushy moustache. “Whatever has happened in Texas is a major disaster, Nicky. In studying Red Sky events over the years, I’ve had to learn the basics of many of the sciences, biology, meteorology, physics, and more. Now, I’m no expert like Dr. Shankel, but I think I can make some educated guesses. To begin with this was likely an accident resulting from an experiment at the collider.”

            “Did they create a black hole?” asks Nicky.

            “I wish Mr. Pyn was still here,” says Roger, “He would know so much more about these things, but I’ll try to answer your questions. As to creating a black hole, it would depend on the size of the collider and the amount of energy it could store. The SSC does produce enough energy, but it’s unlikely that the density of the collider could sustain even a small black hole.”

            “What about antimatter?”

“Dr. Shankel pointed out that antimatter would annihilate itself almost instantly, so I don’t think that’s the answer. The possibility that interests me is the search for extra dimensions. We know that space-time consists of three spatial dimensions and another of time. Theory tells us that there should be at least one more spatial dimension. The only way to explore that idea is using high energy at the quantum level. If this is what the SSC physicists were doing, they may have not only opened another dimension they could have let loose tiny, microscopic blackholes that would eventually consume the planet.” Roger leans back on the couch, shakes his head, and smiles. “But this is all conjecture. It was probably nothing like that.”

“Of course, our greatest concern right now is for the people in the area,” says Nicky, “We still don’t know… Okay, I’m being told we’re going back to the network studio.”

 

            The news anchor, David, appears. “We continue our reporting of the explosion south of Dallas. We have important news breaking right now, so let’s go to Karen Watson, our reporter on the scene.”

            On the screen the dark-haired woman is talking to someone off to the side, but she quickly pulls back and looks into the camera. “Yes, David, as you can see we have relocated several miles from where we first were. The smoke and dust is beginning to clear, and as the sun rises we are about to get our first look at the destruction. Unfortunately there seems to be an electromagnetic disturbance coming from the disaster zone and that has caused our helicopter to be grounded, but we can still operate our drone-camera. We’ll be connecting to that drone momentarily, but first I’d like to bring in Walter Selznick, who is an official from the Department of Energy.

            “Mr. Selznick, what can you tell us about this disaster?”

            The elderly man pushes his glasses up on his nose and says, “This is a tragedy beyond belief. The collider and the city are completely gone, wiped out. It must be the result of something that happened at the SSC, but we’re not sure what. Worst of all, this isn’t over. The area of damage is expanding. The President will have to declare a national emergency, but I’m not sure what we can do to stop it.”

            The reporter’s face goes pale. “So tens of thousands of people are gone? What happened to them? What’s going on in there?”

            “It seems to be a combination of events that no one could have foreseen. Perhaps it was an accident or miscalculation that changed something in the quantum realm. I don’t know. No one knows.” Selznick looks to his left and quickly says, “I’ve got to go,” then he dashes away.

            Karen Watson is a bit stunned by Selznick’s sudden departure but says, “Okay, I understand we’ve connected with our drone-camera so now we can get pictures from directly above the disaster area. Let’s go to those images now.”

            At first the picture is almost all black except for a blurry, gray-green strip on the right side of the screen. As the drone descends the image clears to reveal grass, bushes, and a tree. Slowly encroaching on the greenish strip is a massive black ocean of undulating nothingness. Lines of static streak across the picture. The drone stops its descent and the picture focuses on the tree. The dark, thick, oily-like void flows around the tree’s trunk and immediately the bark withers and peels, the leaves shrivel, and the tree is sucked into the nothingness. A moment later it becomes clear that there is something below the nothingness. At different spots the black goo rises up as if that hidden something is trying to break through to the surface. The something pushes hard against the membrane that separates it from our world. The drone-camera makes a final descent near one of the bulging spots just as a giant, angry eye turns to look out at the camera. Suddenly static fills the screen and the picture goes black.

            The picture returns to Karen Watson who is visibly shaken. She stares into the camera for a long time without saying anything. Her eyes tear up and her lip trembles. Finally she mumbles, “… my kids…” and walks away. The camera is lowered to the ground and the picture goes black.

 

            Nicky Nicks nervously looks from side to side. He has removed his coat and his hair is disheveled.

“Okay, I understand the network feed has returned to us for some reason. I can tell you that we’ve dismissed our audience and part of our crew is gone. What we’ve seen is quite shocking but I’m sure that the worst thing that any of us can do right now is panic. Please remain calm. Someone will figure this all out.

“Cheeky Sorbet has asked to sing a song and since part of the band is gone she’ll do it a cappella. Cheeky.”

Nicky steps aside to reveal a beautiful blond-haired woman with light blue eyes, a small nose, and full lips. Her ivory skin glistens under the studio lights and sparkles dance over her tight, silvery dress. She looks into the camera and begins to sing Ave Maria. Each soulful, operatic note is heartfelt and chilling. As she begins the second verse a piano can be heard to accompany her.

            Cheeky continues to sing and the camera switches to Ace St. Savage, who is playing the piano, and Nicky, who is standing next to him.

            The camera moves in on Nicky’s face and he gives a wry, little smile. Then with a wink he says, “With apologies to Mr. Orson Wells. I hope you enjoyed our special segment of ‘Another Dimension’. I’d like to thank all of tonight’s guests, the actors, crew, graphics designers, and staff that contributed to this magnificent performance. Remember, my friends, we’re all here to entertain you. Goodnight, everyone.”


THE END


2022 George Schaade

Bio: George Schaade is a retired teacher living in the Big Thicket forest of East Texas. Though his favorite genre is SF he often ventures into fantasy and humor where his stories can be odd and offbeat.

Comment on this story in the Aphelion Forum

Return to Aphelion's Index page.